Darryl Handy

Darryl Handy

Monday, January 20th, 2020
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MISSOULA — A True Westerner

Darryl Eugene Handy (originally Gansneder), 85, died on Jan. 20, 2020 in Missoula of complications following surgery. Darryl was born in Visalia, California, on May 11, 1934. He lived a life full of adventure, wanderlust, and service to his country.

A natural outdoorsman, at the age of 18 Darryl ran a cattle ranch near Mariposa, California. Seeking more adventure, he joined the U.S. Air Force from 1953-1957 where he trained in electronics, but transferred to firefighting. This military stint led to a long career in firefighting and fire protection, beginning in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and later on the Plumas and Wenatchee National Forests and at Yosemite National Park. Between 1958 and 1960, Darryl perfected his fire protection skills at a Boeing Aircraft Company site in Marysville, Washington. In 1961, he accepted a civilian fire inspector position in the South Pacific, first on Kwajelein Atoll, then, in 1962, on Christmas Island where he supported the atomic bomb test program as the assistant crash rescue fire chief. Afterwards, he took a break to build a bar out of salvaged timber for his father, W.P. Handy, in Visalia. This bar, the Pump House, is still a well-known western-themed California watering hole.

In 1963, Darryl returned to government service as a fire protection technician on the Los Padres National Forrest. In 1967, he was recruited for a contract civilian position to establish a unified fire department for the 1st Logistical Command in Tuy Hoa, Republic of Vietnam. He later became fire chief for MAC-V Headquarters in Saigon. Darryl commuted to the war from Singapore, where his family lived, often hitching on New Zealand military aircraft. While in Vietnam, Darryl was wounded by a vehicular IED. Although officially a non-combatant, he often carried firearms -- his favorite was a pump shotgun from the Yuma Territorial Prison gifted to him by an Army Special Forces A-Team -- to protect himself and his Vietnamese and American firefighters.

Darryl took another sabbatical from fire-fighting after Vietnam to return to the family business. Between 1969 and 1971 he built a restaurant in Porterville, California.

In late 1971, Darryl again returned to government service as the fire chief for the U.S. Army missile command in Chuncon, South Korea. This was followed by an assignment as fire chief for 8th U.S. Army Headquarters in Seoul where he also supported the U.S. embassy and the city of Seoul.

After Korea, Darryl moved to Hawaii where he was the fire chief for U.S. Army support command at Schofield Barracks. In 1975, he returned to California as the fire protection inspector for 7th U.S. Army at Fort Ord.

Seeking the last frontier, Darryl moved to Alaska in 1976 to work as the fire protection specialist for the Alaskan Air Command in Anchorage. He trained and inspected civilian and military firefighters throughout remote sites in Alaska where he developed a healthy respect for hungry polar bears. Darryl’s last government position was as the fire protection quality assurance inspector for the Alaskan Air Command. Afterwards, he worked as a building contractor in Anchorage.

In retirement Darryl lived in Tuscon, Arizona and Bluffton, South Carolina. He moved to Missoula in 2006 because he wanted to build one final house out west. He had many friends in Missoula.

Darryl was a gifted raconteur and fly fisherman, a crack shot, an avid photographer, a rockhound, a carpenter, a draughtsman, and a military history buff. His love of aviation led him to take flight lessons in Tuscon. His photographic eye was so good that he was commended for his wildlife photography by the head of the Sonoran Desert Museum. Darryl continued to travel the world and the United States in his retired years, often pulling his jeep behind an RV.

Darryl is survived by his brother Robert Handy, of Reno, Nevada; his son Mark Handy of La Conner, Washington; his daughter Sarah Handy of Springfield, Virginia (both from his first wife, Barbara); his son Dennis Handy of Beaverton, Oregon, and his son William Handy, of Anchorage Alaska (both from his second wife, Karen); his granddaughter Megan McCullough, of Columbia, South Carolina; his grandson Ryan Handy, of Berlin, Germany; his grandson Devin Handy, of Las Vegas, Nevada; and his two great-granddaughters Sakura Handy, of Justin, Texas and Kira McCullough, of Columbia, South Carolina. (His beloved son Scott Handy, from his first marriage to Barbara, predeceased him in 1999.)

In a long and varied work life, Darryl was humble about many things. He once described in a matter-of-fact way how he once wrangled for Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas on a Sierra back-country trip. Under prodding, he had many amazing stories about his days milking rattlesnakes and dealing with errant bears in the Sierras, and his nature adventures in Alaska. Darryl was proud of his family fishing trips, especially the float trip in 1998 down the Opala River on the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia, where the guys tried to catch oversized trout in a pink salmon run.

Darryl never knew Edward Abbey or John McPhee, but one can easily imagine him sitting around a campfire swapping stories with them. His family and friends wish he were still here to regale them once again with his adventures and his good cheer.

Memorials in his honor can be made to The Institute for Justice, 901 N. Globe #900, Arlington, VA 22203.
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